THE END OF LIFE 327
goods of life. It taught us that, after all is said and done, human happiness is the end of all knowledge. And we arrange ourselves to make our lives happy on this planet, under whatever vicissitudes of fortune.
We are an old nation. The eyes of an old people see in its past and in this changing modern life much that is superficial and much that is of true meaning to our lives. We are a little cynical about progress, and we are a little bit indolent, as are all old people. We do not want to race about in a field for a ball; we prefer to saunter along willow banks to listen to the bird's song and the children's laughter. Life is so precarious that when we know something truly satisfies us, we hold on to it tight, as a mother hugs her baby close to her breast in a dark, stormy night. We have really no desire for exploring the South Pole or scaling the Himalayas. When Westerners do that, we ask, "What do you do that for? Do you have to go to the South Pole to be happy?" We go to the movies and theatres, but in the heart of our hearts we feel that a real child's laughter gives us as much real joy and happiness as an imaginary child's laughter on the screen We compare the two and we stay at home. We do not believe that kissing one's own wife is necessarily insipid, and that other people's wives are necessarily more beautiful because they are other people's wives. We do not ache to reach the foot of the mountain when we are in the middle of the lake, and we do not ache to be at the top of the hill when we are at its foot. We drink what wine there is in the pot and enjoy what scenery there is before our eyes.
So much of life is merely a farce. It is sometimes just as well to stand by and look at it and smile, better perhaps than to take part in it. Like a dreamer awakened, we see life, not with the romantic colouring of yesternight's dream but with a saner vision. We are more ready to give up the dubious, the glamorous and the unattainable, but at the same time to hold on to the few things that we know will give us happiness. We always go back to nature as an eternal source of beauty and of true and deep and lasting happiness. Deprived of progress and of national power, we yet throw open our windows and listen to cicadas or to falling autumn leaves and inhale the fragrance